Newlands, Cape Town

About Liesbeek River Walk

Start: the lawns below Kirstenbosch at the main entrance on Rhodes Avenue
Finish: Josephine Mill, Newlands
Duration: 4.5 km one way (9km return), or you can return by Uber taxi
Fitness: this is a stroll in the park, particularly if you do it one-way
Our tip: you can park your car just north of the Kirstenbosch entrance

This is a great suburban walk for anyone in Cape Town.

One forgets that most of the Liesbeek River is canalised and that one can walk along much of it. Liesbeek River is not only tree-lined but also runs through Newlands and Rondebosch, joining the Black River at Observatory.

Its source is two streams - the Newlands and Protea streams - flowing off the eastern slopes of Table Mountain. These wind through Kirstenbosch and then meet, just below Rhodes Avenue.

Cross Rhodes Drive from the lawns to the Church of the Good Shepherd on the corner of Kirstenbosch Drive. This beautiful old church was built in 1864 for those who had moved north of Kirstenbosch Drive. It was one of 40 designed by Sophie Gray, wife of the first Anglican Bishop of Cape Town, Robert Gray (they lived at Bishopscourt).

As you turn down Kirstenbosch Drive look out for the wild almond tree on the corner, as this is the same species grown for Van Riebeeck's hedge, the remains of which survive in Kirstenbosch.

The three stone cottages across the road from you serve as the backdrop to the monthly Kirstenbosch Market, and were originally built in 1919 for students and gardeners working at Kirstenbosch.

Turn right up Winchester Drive. On your left is the Boschenheuvel Arboretum and you follow a little footpath along its edge to the Newlands Stream. It's beautiful here in amongst the yellowwood, rhus and stinkwood trees (and a favourite dog walkers spot).

At the bottom of the arboretum cross the road at the bridge and rejoin the stream and path at Riverside Road. This area is awash with beautiful trees, many of them with identification tags. Continue and you will eventually enter the Upper Liesbeek River Garden, ably run by the Bishopscourt Village Residents Association.

The route now intersects with the busy Paradise Road/Edinburgh drive. Paradise Road is called such for a section of original forest above it on the mountain called 'Paradijs'. There is a good pedestrian crossing over Edinburgh Drive, although you may have to exercise patience waiting for the lights to turn. Cross Paradise Road and rejoin the path below the bridge. The Hiddingh Stream flows to join the Liesbeek here.

Look out a little further on as the path now takes a right and joins Bucksburn Road. The next 1.5 km or so are away from the river bank. Follow Bucksburn into Lothian and then Colinton.

You could stop at the posh (but trendy) Vineyard Hotel, opposite Newlands' cricket oval, for a coffee.

The original building at the Vineyard Hotel was once the home of Lady Anne Barnard, the writer, artist and poet who wrote a series of famous letters that described her life between 1798 and 1802 in the Cape (her husband was Andrew Barnard, Colonial Secretary at the Cape).

Take a left into Kildare Road at the bottom of Colinton. There is a beautiful historical bridge over the Liesbeek (you won't reconnect with the river until after SACS).

This neighbourhood is interesting. Once known as 'Irish Town', the little lanes and houses (now gentrified and upmarket) were once the homes of imported Irish labourers who arrived at the Cape to work in Ohlsson's Brewery (now opposite Josephine Mill). Barristers Hotel, alongside Melissas, still bears the red lion, a sign that the hotel sold the brewery's beer.

There are a number of little restaurants in the village on Main Road that are great for lunch or tea. Pass these and continue down Main Road. The South African College School (SACS), the oldest school in South Africa founded in 1829, is on your left. It used to provide both school and tertiary education for those living in the colony, and it only passed its tertiary role on to UCT (the University of Cape Town) when the university opened in 1918.

SACS did not always reside here, however, but above the Company's Gardens in town. SACS only moved to Newlands in 1955.

Turn right into Sans Souci Road. Now you will again cross the Liesbeek River. Just after crossing you rejoin the banks of the river behind the Newlands swimming pool.

This path accompanies the river to Main Road, Newlands. You can cross at the Spur. You now cross the river again over the Westervoort crossing (from which the school, Westerford, gets its name).

You can follow the path under the road bridge on the far side of Boundary Road (but please do so in a group, as the area under the bridge is a little dodgy) to see what is left of an old stone bridge built around 1800, designed by Louis-Michel Thibault (he also designed the improvements and extensions to the historical homestead at Groot Constantia).

If not going beneath the road, continue along pretty Boundary Road as it winds gently to Josephine Mill, still a working mill producing stone ground flour available only on the premises. The flour is ground from locally grown wheat and sold in refillable hemp sacks. You can also buy organic and natural products, and a whole lot of baked goods, from the Mill Shop.

Return the way you came, or get an Uber taxi back to Kirstenbosch.

Need to Know

WhereStart at the lawns below Kirstenbosch at the main entrance on Rhodes Avenue and finish at Josephine Mill in Newlands, Southern Suburbs, Cape Town.

WhenDaylight hours.

How muchFree

TelephoneNot applicable.

OvernightStay nearby in Newlands, in Cape Town


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